Monday, November 5, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of November 11, 2012

The identity of the true people of God has been up for debate for quite some time.  We have seen in Paul's letter to the Galatians how this issue has shaped the discussion concerning the "good news".  Is it the natural children of Abraham (i.e. Jews) who are the people of God, or some other group?

As I have come to understand God's Word, the true identity of the people of God is found in Jesus. Jesus is the true Israel (Abraham's seed) and all who are in Christ (by God's grace received through faith) are also the people of God.

So in order to further support this understanding I invite you over the next few weeks to join me in
"going deeper" into part of Paul's letter to the Romans; specifically chapters 9 to 11.  This first week we will "go deep" into chapter 9.

(Read Romans 9:1-33)

Let me start by saying this is a very complex part of scripture.  It is filled with mystery because it deals with something as unknowable as the mind of God.  We cannot fully know God's mind, but guided by the Holy Spirit and with God's word as our compass we will seek to "go deep" into truth.

Also to frame this discussion it is clear that Paul is passionate and filled with anguish in his heart as he speaks (v. 1).  These are not easy subjects, and they are not intended to be handled without emotion.

I think for this first week, the key components for our discussion are found in verses 1-8 and 30-33.

In verses 1-8, Paul speaks of all that belongs to the people of Israel: "Theirs is the adoption as sons, theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises ..." (v. 4-5)  Clearly the people of Israel have had a special relationship with the living God.

But not all of them.  This is where the argument gets difficult.  We must imagine Paul holding back tears as he says the following words.  "For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.  Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children ... In other words, it is NOT the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring."  (verses 6b-8)

As Paul has said in Galatians, "Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham." (Galatians 3:7)  Clearly those who believe in Jesus (specifically God's promises fulfilled in Jesus) are the children of the promise and regarded not only as children of Abraham, but also children of God!

Now we will move to verses 30-33 to see how Paul sums this up.

"What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles (non-Jews), who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the "stumbling stone".  

And the "stumbling stone" is Jesus.  So then all who place true faith in Jesus (specifically God's promises fulfilled in Jesus) are the true people of God.  Jesus is the narrow door which leads to God.

We will talk more about this next week, but for now what are your thoughts?  Do you agree?  If not, what is God's relationship to the "natural children" of Abraham today?  Also, if this is true, how does it make you feel to know that in Jesus you have become forever a child of God?

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